Parents, Direct Hearts Before Money

marriage and family

As parents, we want our kids to “act right.” We want this for all kinds of reasons. Hopefully, we want our kids to act right for their own good. Often, if we are honest, we want our kids to act right so they don’t embarrass us. Further, we want our kids to “act right” in all aspects of their lives – how they respond to us as their parents, how they approach their schoolwork, how they act toward others.

Because of these desires, we employ all kinds of things to direct their actions in a positive direction. We implement rewards and punishments to incentivize good actions and to seek to curb wrong actions. We want to lead our kids toward good and right actions that will then lead to good and right habits that will eventually become their normal pattern of life.

One of the ways we want our kids to “act right” is in how they value and use money. All of us have seen kids who have no concept of the value of money and seem to think money “grows on trees.” We also see kids who take the money they receive for birthdays or Christmas and immediately spend it as soon as they get it, often to satisfy current impulses and passing whims. So, it is both good and necessary for us to teach our kids how to rightly value and steward the money they get.

As Christian parents, we know the issue of the right understanding and stewardship of money is important simply because of the amount of time Jesus spent addressing the subject while here on earth. We know that of all the things Jesus talked about, He addressed issues regarding the challenges of money more than He even talked about heaven or hell. In fact, He often put the issue of money and material things head-to-head with the value of that which lasts for eternity to show the fleeting value of money and material things – those things that are susceptible to decay or loss (where moth and rust destroy, or thieves break in and steal).

But the thing we often miss in all our efforts at directing our children’s behavior is the greater need to direct their hearts. This is not an either/or, but rather a both/and. We want the outward actions of our kids to be right according to God’s Word, but we want those right actions to come from changed hearts. If we simply focus on “behavior modification,” the heart won’t necessarily change. If we focus first on heart transformation, down the road we can expect right actions to come from changed hearts.

God’s first command is for us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. His second one is for us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This means that we want to help our kids understand these two top priorities as foundational for all their outward actions – including how they value and steward money. Because Jesus taught so much on money, how our kids view and/or use money becomes an easy avenue for training their hearts. Here are just a few examples:

1. When they want to use all the money they get (maybe for birthdays or Christmas) for themselves and their own enjoyment, we can show them how that illustrates a heart that is focused on self and our own desires rather than a love for God and others.

2. When they make an impulsive purchase, they “just can’t live without,” only a short time later to have left that item behind, we can show them that material things that promise us great pleasure and enjoyment might satisfy us for a moment, but will quickly fade, unable to truly satisfy our hearts like only God can.

3. Proactively, when we encourage our kids to take the first part of what they receive and give an offering to the Lord, recognizing that all we have comes from Him, we are showing them that rightly oriented hearts love God and want to serve and glorify Him rather than ourselves.

4. When we encourage our kids to give some of what they get for the good of others and the advance of the gospel, we can teach them that we give cheerfully and sacrificially because Jesus gave His life sacrificially for us.

We know that the only thing that will change the hearts of our children is the transforming power of the gospel. However, we can use the stewardship of money to show our kids their need for the gospel and how that transforming gospel will both transform their hearts and the way they see and use money.

About the author: Randy Mann is the Lead Pastor at Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina.